JVC RS2 Home Theater Projector Review – General Performance

JVC DLA-RS2 Menus

Coming soon!

JVC RS2 User Memory Settings

The JVC offers three User memory settings, found below the three primary image profiles (Cinema, Natural, and Dynamic). In addition there are two savable Memory settings for Color Temperature, which can be incorporated into the user savable memory settings.

JVC DLA-RS2 Projector - Remote Control

The JVC DLA-RS2 projector remote control.Nothing like a really good remote control, and the JVC RS2‘s remote is very good. Identical to the remote that came with the RS1, the RS2′s remote control is long and thin, and very light (I wouldn’t mind a little more weight), it should be easy to handle by large hands and small alike.

Things I consider very important in a remote, include a layout that is easily workable with one hand, and the JVC remote does that just fine. Another key issue is backlight brightness, and the JVC’s backlight is nice and bright. Speaking of backlights, the button to engage the backlight is in the lower right corner, very easy to access. By comparison, many (including the Sony VW50) put it in the top left, much harder to get to.

From the top: On the left is a very small Off button (press twice for off) and opposite it a larger On button.

After a nice space, come the six source buttons in two rows of three, with the “hi-res” buttons on the first row – HDMI 1 and 2, and Component video.

Next comes three large buttons for the primary presets – Cinema, Natural, and Dynamic. The change in shape makes those easy to NOT confuse with the source buttons.

The row below that has the three User savable settings buttons, and then the next two rows have (left) color saturation +, and – (the minus is below the + button. In the center, the + and – for Sharpness, and on the right, a Gamma and below it, Color Temp button.

OK, next left is a rocker bar for Contrast + and -, and right, the same for brightness. In between these two large rockers, is a small Info button (on top) and the image mute (labeled HIDE), button.

That takes us to the usual navigation area, with the Menu button on the left, Exit, which moves you back up a menu level on the right, and the four arrow keys in the usual diamond configuration, with a large Enter button in the center.

That’s it, except for the Test button on the bottom left, and the previously mentioned backlight button on the right. The Test button toggles you through a number of built in test patterns, including full color bars, gray scale, and separate Red, Green and Blue gradation screens.

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JVC DLA-RS2 Shadow Details 4

Here’s the re-entry image from Space Cowboys. Click on the thumbnail image for an overexposed version, and look for the details on the right side. This image is found on most recent reviews:

Click Image to Enlarge

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Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector – Review Summary

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector - Review Summary

A summary of the Hitachi CP-X5021N projector’s pros, cons, and typical capabilities.

12-24-10 -Mike Rollett

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector: Bottom Line

Despite the somewhat disappointing brightness measurements of the CP-X5021N, the overall package is well thought out, and very functional. The projector meets its intended goal of being optimized for large and larger classroom, training, and meeting room environments. It’s bright, has the “big sound”, plenty of advanced networking features, and even a microphone input. The price point considering the feature set, is very good.

Click Image to Enlarge

Update, 2/16/11: As updated in other parts of this review, well after publishing, we found a significant number of the missing lumens. It is explained in the performance page, but ultimately it only requires a major Brightness setting adjustment from the default. The end result: we could measure over 4350 lumens maximum, and over 4050 with a very good looking image. To come in 15-20% below claim is not uncommon. That we originally found it to be down almost 30% was disturbing. -art

That there are very few projectors that can give the CP-X5021N and its siblings serious competition when used for their intended purposes, is all the justification we need to give the CP-X5021N our Special Interest Hot Product Award. These Hitachi Collegiate projectors will be included in the 2011 K12 Education Report as well (click for last year’s report).

The Hitachi CP-X5021N provides a lot of features and very good performance for its slightly over $2000 street price.  While it did not come close to its 5000 rated lumens – we did ask for a second projector. The second CP-X5021N measured only a few dozen lumens more than the first one, so we have to assume that this is a 3500 lumen projector. That’s still a lot of muscle! And, the Hitachi projectors both l provided that level of brightness with very good sharpness and color fidelity.  Even with that lower-than-rated output, it still compares favorably with other projectors we’ve tested in its price range, like the Sharp PG-D3510X.  Compared to the Sharp, which has a similar price and brightness, the Hitachi offers much more in the way of installation flexibility, inputs and presentation sources and sound.  Its ability to project from virtually any source, combined with its high-powered built-in speakers and (don’t forget) the microphone jack, make it an attractive choice for the large classroom or lecture hall (which is its market, being billed as a “Collegiate series” projector).  It should be just as at home in a business setting.

While the Hitachi CP-X5021N has an excellent rated lamp life (5000 hours) in Eco mode, many may want every last lumen, in which case its lamp life (at full power) is rated 2500 lumens, still better than average.

Its scaling/resizing of higher resolutions is solid, but still gives away a bit of sharpness compared to the DLP competition (single chip DLP projectors typically look sharper than LCD or LCoS because they are single panel, and don’t have 3 panels that have to be aligned for max sharpness.

Setup is quite simple and the welcome inclusion of both vertical and horizontal lens shift put it a step ahead of most of the competition.  There are also more picture adjustments available to the user than are seen with many home theater projectors.  Lamp replacement should be easy with any mounting and the hybrid filter has a 5000-hour maintenance schedule.

The Hitachi CP-X5021N is one of three similar projectors in Hitachi’s “Collegiate Series”.  The other two are the CP-WX4021N, which is a WXGA projector rated at 4000 lumens and the CP-X4021N, which is an XGA projector like the X5021N, but is rated at 4000 lumens. We do wonder if the X4021N, is appropriately less bright, since the X5021N missed its target. Most likely I’d expect the 4000 lumen rated X40121N to come in over 3000 lumens, but we’re not likely to get the chance to find out.

The Hitachi CP-X5021N certainly fits its billing as a projector that can be used in a collegiate setting (meaning a large classroom or lecture hall).  Its ability to project from a variety of sources, from multiple computers on a network, to a slideshow on a USB thumb drive, combined with its portability, make it a solid choice for any sized school.

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector: Pros

  • Very good color rendition and good readability with native resolution or higher
  • Horizontal and vertical lens shift, wide range zoom, provide for quick, fllexible placement and setup
  • Ability to project from virtually any type of source
  • Reasonably lightweight – 10.4 lbs.
  • Full complement of inputs and outputs, including HDMI
  • Ability to display from up to four networked computers at the same time
  • Audio is well done – 16 watt speaker out provide more sound than the competition, and the built in Mic jack lets the presenter amplify his voice, a real plus
  • 3500+ lumens – it may not be as much as Hitachi claims, but this is a bright projector for larger rooms

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector: Cons

  • Did not come close to its rated lumen output (ok, it got closer than we first thought)
  • A bit higher priced than some of the competition
  • Just about average lamp life in Normal mode (not exactly a Con)

Editor’s note: It should be mentioned that Hitachi has, more than any other projector maufacturer, focused on the education market. That’s not to say companies like Epson and Mitsubishi, Optoma and Sony, don’t also – with models specifically designed for education), but for Hitachi, it is by far, their number one market and focus. According to them, they are the largest seller of projectors to the school markets. In other words, while Epson, say, claims to sell the most projectors, Hitachi says they sell more projectors to education, than Epson does. Years back, when I owned a large online dealer, I couldn’t convince Hitachi to sign me as a projector dealer- primarily because they were looking for education focused dealers, and we were too general.

It seems that Hitachi’s education focus is as apparent when I look at their new products and when I talk with their people today, as it was back almost a decade ago. -art

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Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector Review

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector Highlights

  • Definitely brighter than average in “best” mode
  • Slightly brighter than average at its brightest
  • Excellent post calibration color
  • “Out of the box” color needs improvement – however, changing a single setting makes it very good. (More on that later, of course)
  • Improved black level performance, very good for the money, but still not the best, but comparable or slightly better than most of the similarly priced competition, if still trailing a few projectors that are legendary for their great blacks.
  • Zoom lens is relatively short thow, may not work shelf mounted in deep rooms, or in typical rooms with small to medium sized screens
  • Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, not as much range as some, but not bad
  • Dynamic iris is pretty smooth, even in the more “active” of two modes. Rarely dectectable during normal viewing – very good!
  • Barring some yet to be reviewed projector that might upset the pecking order, very good price/performance, but many competitors still to review
  • Lacks support for an anamorphic lens (that is reserved for their more expensive VW projector)

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector Overview

The VPL-PRO1 replaces the HW15. Unlike last year however, this year, we get a couple of really significant changes. This year’s Sony VWPRO1, is simply a much better projector, and a much better value than the HW15 represented a year ago!

Not surprisingly, the Sony VPL-PRO1 home theater projector looks, and cooks, very much the same as the HW15. That said, the biggest difference is truly going to be important to almost everyone considering the PRO1. When many projectors are replaced, the closeout of the older model is often a better deal than the replacement, until the old ones are gone. This happens when the changes are relatively minor. Going, from say the Epson 8100 to the 8350, is one of those minor upgrades.

Not this time, for Sony though, the PRO1 starts off with one massive specification change. The VPL-VWPRO1 is rated 1300 lumens, up from 1000 with the older Sony projector.

I am astounded. I’ve been beating up Sony for years for building otherwise rather excellent projectors that I have considered underpowered for those preferring larger screens, and a little too thin in power even on medium sized screens (100 – 110 inch diagonal) when viewing sports or TV with some ambient light.

While last year’s HW15 was a bit brighter than the even older HW10, here we are talking a really big jump in brightness, catapulting Sony, from a bit below average in overall brightness, to definitely brighter than average, expecially in “best mode”. More on this later.

The Sony VPL-VWPRO1 is a $3395 MSRP projector, but there is a freebie. The Sony is a 3 chip LCOS design. Note that Sony calls their LCoS chips SXRD, a term they use in other technology as well, one that has become fairly widely recognized.

Sony is now including a (freebie) – a spare lamp for that price, right in the box (no mail in rebate, etc.) for simplicity. It makes for a huge box though, as the PRO1 resides in the same basic cabinet as all the other VW and HW projectors. That is to say, the projector is larger than average, and therefore you get a really, really large box.

The other immediately obvious change to the spec’d performance is the contrast, which jumps to 85,000:1 from 60,000:1. Mostly that looks to be the work of a new iris. I’ll discuss the difference in black level performance later in the review.

The Sony has both horizontal and vertical lens shift. The vertical lens shift is adequate, but not as much as some others. Both lens shift controls, as well as zoom and focus, are manual.

The Sony VPL-PRO1 looks like its predecessors. Physcially, everything’s in the same place and the case is black (you have to spend for the 90ES to get that those dark pearlescent colors in the case). Styling wise, it is nicely sculpted. It’s dark shiny case blends in with rooms and theaters with dark ceilings.

The Sony VPL-PRO1 has a dynamic iris to achieve its best black levels. We worked primarily with the Iris 1 setting as it delivered blacker blacks, yet was reasonably smooth.

I just don’t know if Mike is becoming a better and better calibrator, or we’ve just had a short run of projectors that seem to calibrate more perfectly than most. The Sony PRO1′s color is outstanding after calibration, and we don’t even calibrate the individual colors. That means Sony did a better than most job to begin with, but things like out of the box color discussions are saved for the image quality page.

Figure that the VPL-VWPRO1, or, if you prefer, the HW20a, after you net out the value of the spare lamp, is the same price as last year’s $2995 HW15. Considering minor improvements in several areas, and a really big boost in brightness, the PRO1 is an even better projector solution than its predecessor. With all those extra lumens, I didn’t even have to think hard at all, in determining that congratulations are in order, as is one of our HOT PRODUCT AWARDs.

Look for the VWPRO1 to be a really serious contender in our next home theater projector report – our big, annual, late winter 1080p Home Theater Comparison Report.

This Sony projector will be taking on competition such as, the Epson 8700ub / 9700ub, the new JVC HD250, the new R series Epson 21000, and the usual assortment of BenQ, Optoma, and other brands that are selling between $2000 and $3500. With its extra brightness, at this early point in the review season, the Sony looks like a very serious contender for one of our Best In Class awards, something that has just eluded this Sony projector’s predecessors.

Let’s get started!

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Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Review

Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Highlights

  • Very good skin tones, both natural and rich looking (very classic DLP) post calibration, and impressively good right out of the box
  • Extremely bright in “best” mode, with over 600 lumens
  • Brighter than average in “brightest” mode too
  • Very good black level performance, considering no dynamic iris
  • The primary improvement (in blacks) due to an upgrade to a Darkchip3 performance DLP, from the Darkchip2 in the HC3800.
  • Typically limited placement flexibility as a DLP projector, with (in this case) moderate zoom range, and no lens shift
  • Dual anamorphic modes allow use of anamorphic lens for Cinemascope viewing (no letterbox) without needing an expensive motorized lens sled
  • Based on an estimated $1299 street price, the HC4000 could prove to be the best or one of the best projectors near its price, (as was its predecessor)

Mitsubishi HC4000 Projector Overview

First things first. The Mitsubishi HC4000 (click for specs) projector is very bright in “best” movie mode, and it’s got impressive color. And a low cost of operation! And other things, including a very reasonable price. Those are a few of the reasons it picked up the award.

Here’s a lower cost projector, in the form of the Mitsubishi HC4000 (info about Mitsubishi here), that can handle larger screens, even in its best mode. I like that, as someone with a 128″ high contrast gray screen (Firehawk G3). The HC4000 fills it rather effortlessly, in “best” mode, with Brilliant Color on, and can still fill it with BC off. Nice!

It’s not often we complete a review of a home theater projector based on working with a preproduction projector. Yet, that’s exactly the case here with our HC4000 projector review. Last year, the HC3800 we received was even earlier – call it an engineering sample, but then, this is now a 2nd generation projector from the HC3800 platform. We received the HC4000 about 3 weeks ago (August ’10), and have actually had to wait a few days to post, in line with Mitsubishi’s announcement.

Mitsubishi HC3800 projector Quantum of Solace image.

For those curious as to what the differences are between an engineering sample, and pre-production, well, the engineering sample last year – half the inputs didn’t even work… Everything works dandy on this HC4000 projector (but then, it is a 2nd generation projector, with mostly minor improvements).

Gandalf image from the Mitsubishi HC3800 projector.

We may take another look at a full production HC4000, just to see if brightness increases, or changes to the color tables (that would render our provided calibration settings worthless). If they change the color tables, we’ll recalibrate.

For those of you sensitive to the rainbow effect, the HC4000 projector should have less effect on you than most other lower cost DLP projectors. The HC4000 sports a 4x – that would be 14400 rpm – six segment color wheel. Much of the lower priced single chip DLP competition; BenQ W1000, Vivitek H1080, Viewsonic Pro8200, use 2x or 3x wheels and therefore should have more visible rainbows to those sensitive.

Most will find the HC4000 to be an excellent “little” and low cost 1080p home theater projector, worth considering if they are looking for a projector anywhere near the price.

HDTV image from the Mitsubishi HC3800 projector.

Some Basics: The HC4000 pricing is not yet set ( a few days before CEDIA as I write this) but it looks like $1495 MSRP, and based on the street prices of the older HC3800 it replaces, I think $1299 is a good number, for now, to quote as the projected street price. We shall see. The HC4000 is a DLP projector with 1080p resolution. As one of the lower cost 1080p projectors (the lowest are at $899), it is a basic home theater projector in several ways. For one, it has the usual rather limited placement flexibility of most lower cost DLP projectors. Also, while the HC4000 offers quite respectable black level performance, it does so without a dynamic iris, which means it can’t match more expensive DLP projectors (like the BenQ W6000) with irises, when it comes to the blackest blacks.

MIB image from the Mitsubishi HC3800 projector.

Being a fan of brighter projectors, I love that this Mitsubishi HC4000 projector is bright, in its best movie mode (it’s bright with Brilliant Color off, and even brighter with it on). It also has has a longer than average lamp life (to keep your long term ownership costs down), and has pretty impressive picture quality, with very impressive skin tones (like last year). This is an affordable projector that should please some rather picky potential owners, especially those into picture quality. Consider it a step up in performance from the real entry level priced 1080p projectors.

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Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector – Warranty

Projector Warranty

The CP-X5021N has a three year parts and service warranty on the projector and a 90 day or 250 hours of use (whichever comes first) warranty on the lamp. As many manufacturers only offer a two-year warranty, and some, only one year, offering three years is notable.  Unfortunately, there is no option for an advance replacement as some manufacturers have.  Users can call 1–800-HITACHI for tech support and warranty service.

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Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector – Performance

CP-X5021N Brightness

The CP-X5021N is rated at 5000 lumens.  Unfortunately, with our test unit, we found this rating to be highly optimistic.  Using the Normal lamp setting, in Daytime picture mode (the brightest), we measured only 3377 lumens at mid-zoom range, nowhere near the claimed 5000 lumens.  While many projectors fail to reach their rated output, this was more extreme than normal, leading us to believe that there may be a lamp issue with our particular unit, as we tried a number of different adjustments to improve the output to no avail.  Going to full wide zoom had only a marginal effect on the output, increasing it from 3377 to 3542 lumens.  At full telephoto zoom, output dropped to 3010 lumens.  While this CP-X5021N iis still quite bright, it’s only about 70% of the rated output.  (Few projectors meet their claims, but, being off by 30% is greater than most (10-25% off).

Update 2/16/11: We discovered that the somewhat dissapointing lumen measurements were due to two items. The first, (which would have made a difference) is that we do not calibrate business and education projectors, we only measure them. As so, we measure using their default settings in different modes.

The second issue, is that, by my reckoning Hitachi made a mistake in their firmware as to the default Brightness setting. I shall explain:

1. With brightness on default (0 on a -32 to +32 scale), blacks and dark shadow detail are badly crushed. The image is dark. The correct setting for Brightness (once I broke out a test disk) is either +12 or +13).

2. While +12 or +13 is ideal, the picture continues to get brighter, as I tried +22. At +22, the picture is still very good, true the blacks aren’t as black as they could be, but we haven’t lifted them much, dark grays are still nicely dark and the image still looks pretty good.

3. Going all the way to +32, the image continues to brighten. But, at +32 things are way over the top, there really aren’t any very dark grays or very dark anything. This is not how you want to be presenting or teaching – though you might force that position if fighting way too much ambient light for a 5000 lumen projector. In other words, avoid +32 because of degraded picture quality.

4. Therefore, ideally, Hitachi should have had set what shows as +12, or +13, as 0. Or, they might have gone a little higher maybe +16 or +18, still a very good picture, and resulting in a default setting that makes sense.

5. Please remember – about the first thing you’ll want to do, when setting up this Hitachi, will be to raise Brightness (at least for Dynamic mode) to +12.

Bottom Line: I did some very quick remeasuring, here are the approximate lumen counts with Brightness set to:

Header Content
0 3542 Lumens
+12 3718 Lumens
+22 4063 Lumens
+32 4367 Lumens

What were’ saying is, with minor adjustment the projector not only produces more brightness, but has a better picture than when using the default 0 setting for Brightness. As it turns out the Hitachi CP-X5021N produces a proper 3718 lumens with optimum brightness setting, but still looks very good pushing out over 4050 lumens. Then there’s that last 300 lumens, but it does start to seriously degrade the image.

With a solid 4000 lumens, plus some extra in reserve for impossible situations, this Hitachi X5021N projector is more formidable than we first thought. The difference between its claimed, and measured brightness is now fairly typical of projectors, with that objection removed, we’ve elevated this Hitachi to our Hot Product Award, from a Special Interest award. Or as I had put it when we first published the Hitachi review:. “If it weren’t for the dissappointing lumen count compared to their claim, it would have gotten the higher award.” I’m glad that all sorted itself out.

Back to the original content.

All further measurements were taken at the mid-zoom point.  Using Normal picture mode, which provided the best trade off between picture quality and brightness, the output was 3140 lumens.  Cinema mode was a respectable 2710 lumens.  Dynamic mode, which varied from most projector Dynamic modes in that it had darker blacks than Cinema mode, came in at only a slightly lower 2666 lumens.  Next up were the three colorboard modes, with Blackboard mode at 3377 lumens, Greenboard at 2533 and Whiteboard at 1851.

Changing the lamp from Normal to Eco brightness mode resulted in a drop of about 36% (from 3140 to 2000 lumens) in Normal picture mode.  This results in quite a large drop from the brightest mode to the Eco mode, which is much greater than most projectors in this class.  As even the brightest mode doesn’t come close to the rated output, this makes Eco mode of questionable value for presentation use in larger venues.  This tends to negate the advantage of the CP-X5021N’s rated lamp life of 5000 hours in Eco lamp mode.

Mike’s January update: A second unit was brought in to confirm the measurments, which the Hitachi folk found to be surprisingly low. The second X5021N arrived, and produced measurements almost identical to the first one. In fact, at the mid-point of the zoom lens it measured only 39 more lumens – so 1% (and change brighter). Based on measuring two different Hitachi projectors, we have to treat this Hitachi as a 3500 lumen type projector (it beat that, with zoom at wide angle – how the manufacturers measure).

Still 3500 lumens is a healthy amount of brightness, even for larger rooms (a decade ago, 2000 lumens was the mark of an “Auditorium projector” (and a decade ago, many 2000 lumen projectors weighed in at 30 – 50 pounds.) As such, we believe the projector capable of larger screens in classrooms and multi-purpose rooms with some ambient lighting!

Networking

The Hitachi CP-X5021N has network control capabilities that are becoming standard with most of today’s multimedia projectors.  Connecting the CP-X5021N to a computer network via its RJ-45 jack permits remote management, scheduling and control of one or more projectors.  As an IP address is set for each projector, multiple projectors can be connected to the network and controlled via a web browser by any computer on the network as well.

Unlike some of the competition, the user can also run presentations over the network to one or more projectors.  A single projector can also display presentations from four PCs simultaneously.  The user can also check the lamp hours as well as enable warning notifications by email. We do not check actual networking functionality, but have seen Hitachi demonstrate working features such as email notification across a network.

Audible Noise

The CP-X5021N has a rated noise level of 36 dB in Normal lamp mode and 30 dB in Eco lamp mode.  Both of these noise levels are typical for projectors in the CP-X5021N’s class.    Subjectively, the CP-X5021N is very quiet in Eco mode and not obtrusively louder in Normal lamp mode.  It’s unlikely that even the higher noise level would come into play for the CP-X5021N’s intended uses.  Combine this relatively low level of noise with the powerful 17-watt built-in speakers and it truly becomes a non-issue for presentations with sound.  There is no need for externally powered speakers to overcome projector noise with the CP-X5021N.

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Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector – Image Quality

Hitachi CP-X5021N: Color & Picture Quality

As the Hitachi CP-X5021N has multiple inputs, we were able to compare the standard VGA input with the HDMI and USB inputs.  We started with my laptop connected via the analog VGA connection and fed its native resolution (1024 x 768).  With this input, the CP-X5021N provided a sharp, colorful picture.  As is typical for LCD projectors, colors were quite accurate in almost all picture modes.  As is usually the case, the highest bright mode (Daytime) tends to wash out the colors a bit, but they still appeared natural, with just a greenish tinge to the lighter colors.  Dropping down into Normal mode was a noticeable improvement, looking much less washed out and with less green.  Best of all, as usual, was the Cinema mode (and strangely enough, Dynamic).  Both of these modes displayed much better color depth while providing 80% of the lumen output of the Daytime mode.  Unless you really need the extra 20%, Dynamic mode provides a better daytime picture in all categories.

Switching to the HDMI input resulted in a slight increase in color depth, but mainly only noticeable in video presentations.  As noted in the “Performance” section of this review, using the HDMI input did not measurably increase brightness.  Using the USB PC input, there was literally no difference from VGA input in any mode. The good color balance provided in the Normal picture mode ensured that photo presentations displayed good realism and skin tones while maintaining a very bright picture.  As mentioned in the Setup and Menu section of this review, the plethora of picture adjustments make it possible to dial in the picture quality, thus eliminating the greenish cast seen in white areas of the brightest modes.  Blacks and shadow detail can also be adjusted to provide the most natural look no matter what kind of lighting conditions you encounter in your presentation venue.  So, even in less than perfect ambient light settings, the gamma controls will allow you to keep blacks from looking too gray. We also checked the CP-X5021N’s ability to go PC-free and present photos from a USB thumb drive.   Photo presentations can be viewed individually or set up as a slideshow, in both cases easily controlled by the remote.  Once again, colors were as accurate and deep as when connected to a PC.  This is a very convenient feature and enhances the flexibility of the CP-X5021N.

Hitachi CP-X5021N: Readability

The CP-X5021N provided very good readability at any resolution or aspect ratio.  Unlike some 3-chip LCD projectors, our test sample only suffered from mild fringing or color separation with the smallest text.  This is usually a sign of good convergence.  Starting with its native resolution (1024 X768) and using our usual spreadsheet on a 67” diagonal projected image, even 8 pt. text was very readable.  This level of readability was no less with white text-on-black and yellow text-on-dark blue backgrounds, even with the smallest text.  There was no noticeable fringing with 12 pt. or higher text.

 

The short version is this: The Hitachi appears sharp. Any sized type, even at higher than native resolutions, will be very readable, IF, the viewer is sitting close enough to see the type well. Distance will be the enemy, not any softness on the part of this Hitachi projector. That is to say, you can’t see 10 point type without binoculars on a 120 inch screen from, say 30 feet away. That’s why presenters and teachers use print sizes like 60, 48, 36, 30, and 24 points in Powerpoint presentations. Even with perfect text reproduction, you have to sit in the first row to have a chance at 10 point type…

With higher resolutions, the CP-X5021N was still readable with smaller text, though we saw more color fringing, especially at the 8 pt. and 12 pt. sizes.  We tried both 1600 x 1200 and 1280 x 800 resolutions, to test the CP-X5021N’s ability to scale and resize these higher resolutions and different aspect ratios.  At either resolution, text sizes of 12 pt. and up were still quite readable, though sporting some noticeable pixel offset with the 1280 X 800 resolution.  We always like to note that in most presentations, it is unlikely that there would be much (if any) text as small as 12 pts.  As compression and scaling technology has improved in recent years, comparing the readability of the smaller text sizes is the only way to point out the differences with non-standard resolutions and aspect ratios.  As we’ve noted with other 3-chip projectors, fringing or pixel offset with smaller text is often due more to slight misconvergence than it is to scaling or compression errors.

For nearly all intended uses of the CP-X5021N, it will provide an easily readable display of any supported resolution.

Hitachi CP-X5021N: Video Performance

Our first test of video playback was via a DVD-quality video file played on a laptop computer, connected via VGA.  While the CP-X5021N’s 2000:1 contrast ratio would be considered low among home theater projectors, it is a very good ratio for a multimedia projector, especially one this bright.  Using Cinema mode as a starting point, we found that skin tones were quite natural and, as we also noted with photo presentations, the overall color balance was quite good.  Unfortunately, the default gamma setting for Cinema resulted in mediocre black levels and shadow detail.  Trying the other five available gamma setting either did not improve the picture or resulted in crushed blacks that obliterated shadow detail.  On the plus side, using a Custom gamma with the Cinema mode would allow you to achieve deeper blacks in a dark room.  Also, switching the lamp to Eco mode helped greatly when using Cinema mode in a dark room. Below are examples of the different modes of the Hitachi CP-X5021N projector. The first is Cinema mode, the second is Daytime mode, the third is Dynamic mode, and the last is Normal mode. Connecting the CP-X5021N to a Blu-ray player (downscaled to 720P) via HDMI, the projector retained its good video performance and excellent color balance, all at a brightness level that’s more than twice what many other projectors would provide with this picture quality. As it’s likely that your video presentation will also include sound and the CP-X5021N is billed as a “collegiate series” projector, it’s ability to provide an adequate sound level through its built-in speakers may be important when presenting in a large classroom.  Fortunately, the 16-watt output is more than sufficient to create an acceptable volume level without the need for external powered speakers for all but the larger lecture halls.

Hitachi CP-X5021N: Video Performance

Cinema Mode
Daytime Mode
Dynamic Mode
Normal Mode

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Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector – Physical Tour

Appearance

The Hitachi CP-X5021N has a nice, functional appearance.  Starting with the front panel, the lens is recessed right in the center of the front face, which keeps it out of harm’s way even without its lens cap.  Just behind the lens, in a covered recess in the top of the projector, are zoom and focus adjustment rings, as well as screw adjustments and lock for vertical and horizontal lens shift.  There is a large IR receiving eye just to the right of the lens. To the left of the lens is an air intake vent.  There are two front height adjustment feet (one in each front corner) that have the usual push-button release.  Fine height adjustments can also be made by screwing each foot in or out.  Unfortunately, there no adjustment feet in the rear, so table mounting should be on a fairly level surface.

Moving to the top of the projector, facing it from the front, there is a cover in the left rear for accessing the lamp.  This makes for easy lamp replacement if the projector is ceiling mounted, as you wouldn’t have to unmount the projector to replace the lamp.  In the center, towards the rear of the projector, is a small control panel with only the most basic functions.  These include indicators for power on, lamp status, security password lock and for warning of projector overheating.  To the left of the indicator lights are buttons for Power, Inputs selection and a 5-function circular button to bring up and select from the on-screen menu, as well as menu navigation (Up, Down, Left, Right).  On the bottom of the projector, toward the rear, is a removable cover for replacing the internal clock battery.
On the right side (again facing the front of the projector), toward the front, are the AC power cord connector (a rather odd location) and the screw for removing the lamp cover toward the rear.  On the left side, toward the front, is an air intake vent with a removable cover for accessing the dust filter.  Continuing toward the rear on the right side is one of the two built-in speakers.
Moving to the rear panel, we find a nice array of connectors.  Starting at the left, the second built-in speaker is followed by a USB Type A input and LAN jack.  Just right of that is an HDMI input, USB Type B input, emergency shut down switch, standard VGA PC input and 5 BNC jacks for computer video input.  Moving to the bottom of the panel, starting again at the left side, is a security bar and a Kensington lock, followed by two 1/8” stereo audio input jacks and one set of RCA stereo inputs.  They are followed by a microphone jack, a set of RCA stereo output jacks, S-video, composite and component video inputs.  A VGA monitor output, RS-232 control and IR control jacks round out one of the most complete rear panels found on a multimedia projector.  Finally, the right quarter of the rear panel is reserved for the hot air outlet.

Hitachi CP-X5021N Remote Control

Click to Enlarge. So close.

The CP-X5021N’s remote control is a small, black remote with gray buttons (except for the Power button which is red) and white lettering.  As most of the buttons are also the same size, this makes them difficult to find in a darkened room.  On the plus side, the buttons are appropriately grouped and cover the usual most-used functions.  In addition to menu access and navigation, there are button to select between video and computer sources, zoom, image blanking and freezing, audio volume and mute, aspect ratio, page up and down (when using the remote as a PC mouse) and keystone correction.  Of particular note are two buttons labeled “My Button”, which can each be programmed with a custom function selected from a list in the menu.

As is usually the case with multimedia projectors, the buttons are not backlit or even glow-in-the-dark, as backlighting can often be distracting in a darkened room.

Click Image to Enlarge

Hitachi CP-X5021N Setup & Menus

Setup of the CP-X5021N can be very quick and is expedited by the vertical and horizontal lens shift.  Unlike many projectors in the CP-X5021N’s class, zoom range is quite good, so placement of the projector relative to the screen is not a big issue.  Although the lack of rear height adjustment feet necessitates are fairly level surface (when table mounting), having two front feet with fine adjustment capability helps to level the projector.  While you can use the CP-X5021N’s auto-keystoning to square the image to the screen, we typically recommend that you should keep any keystone correction to a minimum to avoid unwanted picture distortion.  Fortunately, the CP-X5021N also has an advanced form of keystone correction called “Perfect Fit” that gives the user more precise control to square the image by affecting smaller areas of the image.  Trying the “Perfect Fit” adjustment with a purposely uneven surface, we found that it had much less of an effect on overall picture quality than standard keystone adjustment.

Bringing up the menu, the CP-X5021N starts out in an “Easy Menu”, from which the user can choose the desired Picture mode, as well as perform other setup functions.  From there, the user can go to an “Advanced Menu”, where all the substantive picture adjustments reside.  Here you’ll find all of the usual picture adjustments (contrast, brightness, color, tint and sharpness).  However, here is where the CP-X5021N departs from the norm by adding a range of adjustments seldom seen on home theater projectors, much less multimedia projectors.  There are six preset gamma settings (which provide different levels of the brightness of blacks and grays) and each can have its own custom setting with eight steps of adjustment.  This is matched by six color temperature settings (which offers different balances of the levels of red, green and blue in all shades of gray), each with its own custom RGB gain and contrast adjustments.  While many users may not have the expertise or equipment to properly use the custom adjustments, just having a number of gamma and color temperature settings can come in handy to optimize images with dark scenes (where the gamma control can improve shadow detail) or with whites that look too red, blue or green (color temp).  Another nice feature is that with the Custom gamma settings, you can display a nine or fifteen-step gray ramp that allow you to adequately “eyeball” a decent series of grays.  As you can mix and match each Picture mode with these gamma and color temp settings, this allows the presenter to select modes that fit best with his or her particular presentation.  This level of control is an impressive and welcome feature of the CP-X5021N.

For those presenting in a classroom or similar venue, the CP-X5021N also has settings for the standard board surfaces.  In addition to the usual Blackboard setting, there are also color profiles for Whiteboards and Greenboards.  There is also a microphone input to allow a presenter to take advantage of the CP-X5021N’s 16-watt built-in speakers.

Advanced Menu

Easy Menu

Gamma Custom

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Hitachi CP-X5021N LCD Multimedia Projector Review

A detailed review of the Hitachi CP-X5021N projector. This is a bright projector and a versatile one. The CP-X5021N, however, was designed with the university (and K12) classoom, multi-purpose room and small auditorium market in mind. This projector is one of Hitachi’s Collegiate series projectors.

December 2010 – Mike Rollett Update 1/19/11: We measured a 2nd Hitachi CP-X5021N projector to confirm brightness, which, while very impressive, was still notably below the factory claim for this Hitachi projector (more in the review). Update 2/16/11: Further investigation finds more lumens under the hood. Hitachi CP-X5021N receives our Hot Product Award. More info on the Performance page.

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector Highlights

  • Very good Brightness – approximately 3500 lumens measured – 5000 claimed – (but 4300+ lumens possible, see update)
  • Horizontal and vertical lens shift, 1.7:1 zoom lens, for great placement flexibility
  • Can do computer free presentations including from over a network
  • “Perfect Fit” advanced keystone adjustment
  • Long-life hybrid dust filter (5000 hours) means no extra required maintenance
  • Long lamp life in Eco mode (5000 hours) for low cost of operation
  • Advanced picture adjustment options for gamma and grayscale
  • 16-watt built-in speaker – enough for larger classrooms

Hitachi CP-X5021N Projector Overview

Headlining Hitachi’s “Collegiate Series” of multimedia projectors, the Hitachi CP-X5021N projector is a portable XGA (1024 X 768) LCD multimedia projector that provides excellent color even in its brighter settings.  Unlike most of the competition, it features both horizontal and vertical lens shift, greatly increasing flexibility of placement of the projector.

The CP-X5021N measured in with approximately 3500 lumens (more about that, and updates, in the “Performance” section of this review) with custom picture adjustments for gamma and grayscale seldom seen on multimedia projectors.  Also, it features one of the highest output, built-in audio power ratings (16 watts) in its class.  This combination of brightness and sound level make it well suited for its intended use in a classroom or lecture hall.

For easy setup, in addition to lens shift, the Hitachi CP-X5021N provides adjustable front feet and auto keystoning, as well as an advanced method of picture corner correction called “Perfect Fit”.  “Perfect Fit” allows the users to individually adjust picture corners for proper display (more about that in the “Setup” section of this review).  Another nice feature is the claimed 5000-hour lamp life in Eco mode, as well as a 5000-hour replacement interval for the dust filter.  As a user can still get 2500 lumens in Eco mode, you can get a lot of projection time out of a lamp if you have some light control in your presentation venue.

The CP-X5021N also features a full set of inputs and outputs, including both HDMI and USB inputs.  While not specifically promoted for its portability, the CP-X5021N’s relatively compact size and 10.4 lb. weight, along with its easy setup, make it simple to use in multiple locations.  When considering it’s built in audio advantage over the competition, the extra weight may be a minor trade-off compared to carrying some additional speakers!

Noteworthy: Audio

Hitachi developed their “Collegiate” series with the larger classrooms typically found on college campuses in mind. One key aspect of dealing with large classrooms is sound. Typical portable projectors have one or two 1 watt speakers.

Most projectors designed for typical 40 or less student, K-12 classrooms, though, typically have more audio power, perhaps a single 7 watt speaker, or a pair of 5 watters, or maybe even one 10 watt single speaker. The Hitachi’s 16 watt speaker is more audio horsepower than we’ve seen on almost any other projector. (Most auditorium projectors won’t have speakers built in, figuring they need more significant sound reinforcement.)

By providing respectable sound, the Hitachi reduces the overall cost and installation effort that would be required if separate speakers and audio amplifiers are used. Keep in mind, though, even a 16 watt speaker isn’t going to fill a large classroom with audiophile sound. It will likely, though, be enough for basic voice over video, and equally a benefit, the Hitachi has a microphone input, so the professor – or presenter, can use the Hitachi to amplify his voice.

The microphone capability is a very nice touch, and likely will be appreciated by many, whether by a professor in a classroom or a presenter in a large multi-purpose room or meeting room.

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